Transcribed from the LeMars Daily Sentinel…articles published sometime in the mid 1960’s….written for the LeMars Daily Sentinel by Virgil Dorweiler.
Fire Siren signals Co. K. arrival
News of their arrival at Camp Dodge enkindled a spirit of patriotism in LeMars. The Commercial Club immediately began preparation for the triumphant return of Co. K to LeMars, Iowa.
Fifty citizens attended the initial meeting. It was decided that the guardsmen would need between 10 days and two weeks to get mustered out of federal service. Some decisions in the meeting follow: to have a committee meet the boys in Cherokee, to have a banquet at the armory with each guardsman getting three free tickets, to dress the town in holiday attire with flags, bunting and banners, to have a parade honoring the men and to set aside a special day for the men of Co. K and call the day “Patriot’s Day.”
O.L. Loudenslager was the organizer of the parade. He lined up one band from Western Union College and three schools’ student bodies (LeMars, St. Joseph’s and Western Union) and the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic. Father Pape and judge Hutchins were asked to take part in the activities.
Four hundred banquet tickets were to be sold for $2.50 and an additional two hundred for $1.
On March 20, 1917, Mayor Frank Smith received a telegram from Camp Dodge. Co. K would not be returning in the foreseeable future. The threat of war with Germany had reached its peak. German submarines were harassing American vessels which took supplies to the British and the French.
The Des Moines Register (March 19, 1917) claimed President Wilson had called for an extra session of the U.S. Congress at an indefinite date before April 16.
However, March 23, the men of Co. K were told they would be mustered out and returned to LeMars the same day. Their train was to leave Des Moines at 3 p.m. Since train officials did not know just when the train would reach LeMars, the city fathers devised a plan to let the town’s people know when the men would arrive. One long blast on the fire siren would indicate the troop train was one hour away; two long blasts, a half-hour away. Smith immediately named the following Tuesday (March 27, 1917) as “Patriot’s Day” and sent a band and thirty citizens to Cherokee to greet the train from Des Moines.
When the train reached Cherokee, the first long blast of the fire siren was heard in LeMars. When the train reached Marcus, the two long blasts shattered the city of Le Mars’ silence. When the train was just outside of Oyens, a big bonfire was noticed by the side of the tracks which reflected the patriotic fervor of the people in that section of the county.
The men who got off of the train with Capt. Koenig that night were: First Lt. William Rothaermel, First Sgt. C. J. Koerner, Mess Sgt. J. U. Sammis, Supply Sgt. Charles Ewin, Sgts. Leo Hodapp, Warren Lodge, Walter Held, Russell Bowers, Lyle Board, Harry Van de Steeg.
Corporals Fred Eilers, Joe Sampson, Stephen Dier, Clarence Mc Whorter, Albert Ewin, Carlyle Kennedy, Harry Weagel, William Jacobsen.
Privates Herbert Brown, Kenneth Clarke, Cecil Clarke, Mike Vokandis, Theodore Strouse, Peter Shive, George Smith, Charles Kale, Ray McCoy, Walter Huxtable, Harold Collins, Luther Green, Nick Majeres, Hugo Peterson, William Pieper, John Witt, Lee Hoag, Oscar Chapman, and Milton Fulghum.
Then at 11:30 Friday night, 3000 area citizens greeted the Illinois Central train which returned the men of Co. K to LeMars. After greeting their relatives, the guardsmen fell in line and marched to the armory for a midnight snack prepared for them by the citizens of LeMars.
Drum taps … Co. K in early days was spelled one way: K – O – E – N – I – G.
Throughout it’s history Co. K of the 56th regiment (now known as Co. A. of the 133rd regiment) has attracted such outstanding young men that its present and past rosters read like a “who’s Who in LeMars” ---to name a few, John Hart, Russell Bowers, Clyde Eastman and Orville Livermore.
However, one name rates special recognition. Without him, Co. K would probably have never been a part of this community. Jacob Koenig (1880-1950), LeMars realtor and insurance salesman, devoted time, effort and money in 1913 to bring Co. K here.
According to John Peterson, (LeMars Sentinel, Tuesday, July 18, 1960), “Mr. Koenig was the driving force in that early endeavor to bring a military company to LeMars. He made numerous trips to Des Moines, to other towns in the circuit where guard companies were located and to towns from which companies had been withdrawn.”
His enthusiasm proved contagious. The LeMars Commercial Club, under his leadership, strongly supported young Koenig’s project.
Finally, Adjutant Gen. Guy E. Logan agreed to locate the new company in LeMars if the community could meet three conditions: 1) suitable quarters; 2) a guaranteed minimum of 65 enlisted men and 3) assurance of competent leadership, capable of gaining and holding commissions in the organized Iowa Militia as governed by the army code.
The Dalton Opera House became the temporary home of Co. K. The newly reorganized 56th regiment of the Iowa National Guard was assured that the community could recruit more than the required minimum of enlisted men.
And most important, Adjutant Gen. Guy E. Logan was convinced that Jacob G. Koenig’s previous military experience and his devotion to the task of securing a National Guard company for LeMars were adequate proof that Co. K would be assured outstanding leadership.
On Dec. 9, 1913, Co. K of the 56th regiment became a reality for Northwest Iowa. And Koenig, who had enlisted in the guard that morning as a private, was elected captain that night by other members of the company who had taken their oath with him earlier in the day.
And with the help of four former servicemen (Monte Cass Sr, William Forbes, William Shoemaker and J. C. Johnson) and lieutenants William Rothermel and John Peterson, Koenig molded Co. K into a functional military unit.
Drum taps ---- Charter members of Co. K
On Tuesday, Dec. 9, 1913, without much fanfare, a group of 58 nervous young men ranging in age from 17 to 33 raised their right hand, swore their allegiance to the American government, and then received word that Co. K of the 56th regiment of the Second Iowa Infantry had been officially established in LeMars, Iowa.
These men thereby became charter members of Co. K. They were:
Ernest Adler, Walter, Adler, Oswald Bartels, Rudolph Bartels, Paul Bender, Harold Bogen, Kent Bowers, Warren Butler, Roy Carter, Gerald Clarke, LeRoy (Roy) Cooper, Clyde Eastman, John Erdman, Reuben Fissell, William Forbes, Earl Frase.
Garret Grahlmann, Arthur Hansen, John Harker, John Hart, Roy Hart, Fred Hensler, Lloyd Huebsch, Philip Hughes, Joseph Hutchings, Aubrey Ivey, Randall Ivey.
John Johnson, Theodore Johnson, Wallis Kilker, Clarence Klise, Jens Kloster, Sumner Koch, Jacob Koenig.
Theophilus Lanners, Gerhard Lieb, Henry Lorenzen, Alois Mathey, Otto Miller, Johann Overman, Homer Patterson, Norman Redmon, Arthur Ringer, Merl Rousch, Danile Royer.
Homer Sampson, Carl Schneider, William Schumaker, Paul Sheeks, Peter Smith, Bernard St. John, George Stephens, William Trautt.
Charles Trueblood, Dow Vandermeer, Oscar Weindenfeller, James Winn, Cloyd Woodke.
Of this elite group, only Roy Cooper, Clyde Eastman, John Erdman, Arthur Hansen, John Hart and Carl Schneider survive. (Cooper, Erdman, Hansen and Hart live in LeMars; Eastman, in Sioux City; and Schneider, in California.)
Shortly after their formal induction, the 58 voted for the man they wanted to lead them; Jake Koenig received 52 of the 58 ballots.
What prompted these men to take this historic move? The four LeMars residents isolated four major reasons: 1) “that Jake Koenig could get you to do anything,” 2) “It gave one a feeling of civic pride being able to get Co. K away from Emmetsburg” 3) “Koenig asked a few of us to join so that others would follow” and 4) “All of us young guys wanted to stick together, so when a couple decided to join we all decided to join.”
But do they regret their action? In concert they claim, “It was the best thing that happened to us at that age.”
At least two failed to survive the first month, Lloyd Huebsch and Cloyd Woodke. However, according to the LeMars Sentinel (Dec. 12, 1913), a dozen other men had expressed a desire to enlist but were not informed when the adjutant general would come to LeMars, so they were not present for the formal induction.
Within ninety days, the strength of Co. K stood at 70. For experienced cadre, Koenig recruited two Spanish-American War veterans: William Forbes and John Johnson.
For subordinate officers, he recruited John Peterson, then the publisher of the LeMars Globe-Post, who was already an officer in the National Guard, and William Rothaermel, a reporter for the LeMars Sentinel.
By Virgil Dorweiler